Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Worshiptainment and Cessation: Chasing the Wrong Fox

Mike Livingstone has an excellent blog on what he calls Worshiptainment.

What is interesting about his blog is that it confirms the problem without actually realizing it.  A. W. Tozer acknowledged the worshiptainment problem in his day, when worship music - by many definitions - was being done right. Which means even though Mr. Livingstone makes valid points regarding the entertainment factor present in some churches, we are still beating around the bush and haven't actually yet flushed out the fox.  In other words, if worship services were a problem in Tozer's day, then why do we draw the cross-hairs on worship services today?

It's a particularly telling sentinel that, when researching the problem further, we generally find the blame rests with the congregation: "they won't come unless { some reason }". Why? Because it mimics what the average Christian collectives already do.

 

Where the rubber meets the Road

 

Most Christians - throughout history - have read the Bible and compared it with the facts around them. Unfortunately, they're conflicted when truth doesn't match facts. In such a situation, they have several options:
  1. Create a doctrine that explains why their experience (facts) don't match the truth observed in Scripture. 
  2. Find someone that actually functions in the manner in which the Bible describes (e.g., they prayed for healing and it didn't work - find someone for which it does work)
  3. Go back to their prayer closet and talk to God about it - determine why they're not seeing His truth acted out in their experiences
What most Christians don't understand - because it's simply not taught in our churches - is that facts will stand in apparent contradiction with truth.  What God wants however, is someone who is willing to stand in truth until the facts properly align.  If you can't dismiss your questions regarding the facts you observe in the light of the truth you know, you'll never move into the truth.  You'll either live in conflict, or dismiss it entirely.

In example, consider the story of Jonathan slaying the Philistines (1 Samuel 14).  He believed the revelation of God, was inspired to act, and acted upon the revealed truth in spite of the apparent facts.

The facts of the situation were that Jonathan was tactically disadvantaged: there was only two of them, but unknown numbers of the enemy; the enemy was on top of a hill, they were in a valley; Jonathan had to crawl  on his hands and knees, in full sight of the enemy, just to enter the battle.  The truth of the situation was in stark contrast to the facts of the situation.

 

Creating New Doctrine to Match Facts instead of Truth

 

Scripture clearly teaches that God desires His will be performed on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:9-13).  There are any number of conclusions and adjunct scriptural evidences that we could draw upon to examine various facts in conflict with this truth.  Consider sickness, for example.

Most Christians will tell you that it's God's will for you to be sick - it's simply factual that people are sick, and you gotta die somehow, and God will somehow use it as a blessing.  Nevertheless, truth says otherwise.  First, the model prayer stands in direct conflict with the facts.  Secondly, every time Jesus is recorded encountering sickness, He destroys it.  Thirdly, Jesus perfectly represented and performed the will of God (here), and finally, if God desires us to be sick now, then there must be sickness in heaven.

But seeing that we can't have it that way, we create a new doctrine.  We call the spiritual gifts 'Apostolic Gifts,' and then have them cease.  I'll leave the rest of the quandary for you to sort out.

 

The Better Way


What's lovely about the outcomes referenced in Mr. Livingstone's blog is that it is presumable that the church actually went back to their prayer closet - so to speak - and changed their attitudes and position relative to God.  In other words, they observed that the facts didn't match the truth and instead of casting blame or creating a doctrine, listened to Holy Spirit and understood that they themselves needed to make a change.

Their explanation of the success is that "people are hungry for the word of God."  If by that one means preaching and teaching, then I'll respectfully disagree.  But if by that one means they're hungry for a relationship with God, then we're on the same page.

God teaches us that a cognizant relationship with Him begins with a turning of the heart, not with the preaching of the word and understanding with the mind:
but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away (2 Cor. 3:16)
Which is completely opposite of what we hear today: preach the word so people can learn - move head knowledge into the heart.

When a person or congregation returns or is revived, it's not by a will of the mind - it's a surrendering of the heart, from which the mind follows after the veil is removed.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

The Greatest Travesty

What is the greatest travesty of the modern church era?

Bad music?  Bad preaching?  Hyper-grace?  Expecting to see signs, wonders and healing?  Speaking in tongues?

I submit to you, it's none of those things.  And while this next statement may seem out of context, it's not: I used to think that it was impossible to be too heavenly minded to be of any earthly good.  I honesty didn't understand the concept: how could the two be in conflict with one another?  But I've come to realize that being heavenly minded is the thing that our churches try to instill - literally.

We're told that heaven is better than this life.  We're told that misery, trials and tribulations are our lot while "in the flesh," but not to worry: heaven is better.  Just remember where you're headed; and while you're at it, try to convince some others to come along with you because God made a better place for us and He wants us to be with Him there - where there's no misery, no tears and no worries (a seemingly difficult truth in light of Revelation 21:1-4 and modern preaching, I might add).

In essence, heaven is the goal, the touchdown and even to some, the pay-back for all of those who didn't choose their righteous path towards heaven.

Therefore, I submit to you that the travesty that modern preaching has foisted upon humanity is that heaven is the thing to be sought and obtained.  In doing so, we have turned the pursuit of heaven into our religion, the gospel into it's foundational axiom, and Jesus into it's causality.

In setting heaven as the goalpost, we have made Jesus merely a bystander along the way in our religion of seeking something  better.

We are so consumed with exiting our current sufferings that we have rejected the truth that exists in Jesus
Now when John, while imprisoned, heard of the works of Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to Him, “Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and report to John what you hear and see: the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.  And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me.”
When we practice the Religion of Heaven, Jesus becomes a tool and the Bible our faith object.  In doing so, we find ourselves searching the scriptures looking for the next nugget to propel us back to the plateau of happy thoughts and abject rejection of ourselves and our earthly habitation.  And in doing so, we take offense in Jesus by make Him a mere steppingstone in our religion of the Journey to Something Better, aka, Heaven.

The Enemy has so infiltrated the Christian culture that we have come to believe that Heaven is our inheritance, the Bible is our faith object and the pastor/teacher is our helper.  The truth is that Jesus is our inheritance, Holy Spirit is our Helper, and God is our Faith Object.

In the section of scripture often called the beatitudes, (be of this attitude), we find this tidbit of wisdom:
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God  (Matthew 5:8)
The average pastor teaches this section of scripture as something "we should be," or "attitudes we should have," but at the same time, re-qualifies this verse as justifying moral excellence.  In other words, they're teaching that if you're morally excellent, you'll see or find God.  The problem with this bit of tortured reasoning is that the natural man can't achieve moral excellence on his own - only Jesus can bring moral excellence to the human condition.

So then, what are we to make of this scripture?  What does it mean to be 'pure in heart'; if not morality, then what?

When we understand the definition of pure, the meaning begins to come into focus:
Not mixed or adulterated with other material
An impure heart is a unfocused heart, it is a heart with split allegiance or desires.

Matthew 5:8 comes into focus when we understand that it's not referring to moral purity (something unobtainable) but focus purity (something that is obtainable): a heart completely focused upon, and surrendered to, Jesus.

Over the years, the church has designed alternative worship objects: such as pastor worship, bible worship, experience worship, educational worship and heaven worship - just to name a few.  All of these elements are designed to create within us an impure heart - a heart not focused on a single element, that being Jesus Christ.  We cannot set our hearts on heaven and also on Jesus.  A pure heart is an undivided heart, just as pure gold and pure silver have no other defiling elements.

Therefore, the greatest travesty of the modern church era is that it creates impure hearts within people through the encouragement to desire things other than Jesus; to encourage faith in things other than Jesus; to teach that life with Jesus Christ in the here-and-now is not something to be desired more than arriving in heaven.
Yes, furthermore, I count everything as loss compared to the possession of the priceless privilege (the overwhelming preciousness, the surpassing worth, and supreme advantage) of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord and of progressively becoming more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him [of perceiving and recognizing and understanding Him more fully and clearly]. For His sake I have lost everything and consider it all to be mere rubbish (refuse, dregs), in order that I may win (gain) Christ (the Anointed One)  (Philippians 3:8

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